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Increasing Your Credibility

Increasing Your Credibility

Original Article:

Baseball umpires sometimes wonder why they aren’t moving up the ladder to bigger and better games. One reason could be amateurish and non-professional habits. Let’s take a look at some things umpires may be doing that could hurt their overall acceptance.

Appearance — It should go without saying, but your appearance will go a long way toward establishing your credibility. Coaches and players notice umpires who have a neat appearance and shined shoes. Umpires who use adjustable caps and wear watches while working the plate also may create a negative impression. Umpires who are obviously overweight, wear full beards, long hair, and perhaps earrings are also looked upon poorly. Does this have anything to do with ones ability as an umpire? Of course not, but it does have a lot to do with credibility

Making unnecessary calls — A foul ball straight to the backstop or into the stands doesn’t require the big call. It doesn’t require any call. Yet, it’s surprising how many plate umpires, and even some base umpires, make a production over such an obvious play. This same philosophy goes for routine fly balls and pop-ups. There is no necessity for making an out call on this play with right arm upraised and a big vocal “He’s out!” Most players, coaches and fans will be thinking, “No kidding!” The time to make the big call is when there is a doubt as to whether the ball was trapped or a fielder maintained possession after the catch.

Use of the indicator — How many times have you seen an plate umpire call a pitch, then hold the indicator right in front of his face as he advances the count? Umpires sometimes give the impression they’ve never seen an indicator before. Here’s a tip. Notch your indicator wheels at “zero” and you’ll cut down on the need to constantly check the count. If you have to check your indicator, do it while holding it down to your side. (making sure no play is possible, of course) Another way to check is to sneak a look while adjusting your mask with your left hand. In any event, be inconspicuous. .

Don’t let people toss you the ball — If you don’t have ball boys, have people toss the ball to the catcher, who will hand you the ball. Few things look worse than an umpire trying to catch errant throws from players and coaches. Have people hand you the ball.

Giving the count — It’s not necessary to give the count to one dugout, then the pitcher, then the other dugout. Remember people can’t always see the count, but they can often hear it. Therefore when you give the count visually, also give it verbally. It’s best to give it, “Two balls, one strike,” as opposed to “Twenty-one,” or “Two and one.” Also, when you give the count visually, use the middle finger and the index finger to indicate a two ball or two strike count. It’s not the index finger and the little finger. When you give the count, give it in an authoritative manner and face the pitcher. When to give the count? If you are fortunate to work at a field with a scoreboard, the only time you need to give the count is if the scoreboard is incorrect. If there is no scoreboard, the count should be given every two or three pitches.

Pointing to first base on ball four — I had this happen early in my career. A three two pitch was borderline on a checked swing. My partner pointed the runner to first. The only problem was I thought he wanted help. You can imagine the surprise for my partner and the batter when I rang up strike three. Moral: Just call ball four.

Use of an amateurish stance while working the plate — Umpiring the plate with both hands behind your back proclaims loudly that your are a novice. Use one of the recommended stances preferably scissors, box, or heel-to-toe in the slot.

Talking with your partner between innings — The only time umpires should converse between innings is to briefly discuss coverage or any matter directly pertaining to the game. It’s best not to converse after a controversial play. Wait an inning or two for things to cool down.

Professionalism — One could write a book on this subject, so let’s stick to the highlights. First, remember that if a coach has never seen you before, you have zero credibility. Your credibility will build or decline as the game progresses.

Prior to the game, don’t be hanging around near the home dugout waiting for the home plate meeting to start. Inform the home coach you are there and to tell you when he’s ready to go then wait outside the field. You should not go to the home plate meeting without your partner, unless you are ready to start the game without him. Not only is this very unprofessional, but it’s an excellent way of beginning the game on a sour note with your partner. If he is not there on time, notify the coach that you are present and then either wait outside the playing field for your partner’s arrival or start the game.

Unnecessary conversation — Year in and year out, one of the biggest complaints coaches have is umpires who constantly carry on casual conversation with players and base coaches. You’d be surprised at what a negative effect this has on your credibility, especially if you are hobnobbing with the home coach.

Attitude — Watch your demeanor. Some umpires, through their body language and the way they conduct the game, give people the idea they are doing everyone a favor by just being there. Work the game as hard as you can, and give the impression you are happy to be umpiring the game.

Finally — Be reasonable. Baseball is a highly competitive, and sometimes emotional game. When appropriate, be willing to go the last mile with a coach or player. Work hard to let the coaches and players know, that within reason, you are approachable.

There are other amateurish and unprofessional things that umpires do, but these seem to constantly rank high on the list. If you’ve been guilty of some of the above behavior, work on eliminating those habits. By doing so, you’ll be elevating your credibility with not only the players and coaches, but with your partners as well.

This column, written by Ken Allan, originally appeared in the 9/00 issue of Referee.



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